Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reflections on Ordination

First, a big old "Mea Culpa." It has been perhaps too long since I've put any serious effort into the blog. But, that's because (for the most part) I've been on the road to other men's ordinations.

Well, Dcn. Mike, now-happily-Deacon Tyler, and Anthony aren't the only ones out in parishes. And eve that is an interesting point. I first wrote, "out in the parish," but decided to change it. First, we're obviously not all at the same parish. Second, in due deference to our professors: no two parishes are the same. Three, there is a way of speaking of "the parish" which so idealizes it and removes it from "the seminary" that it can, in thought perhaps, become quite removed from what experience in parishes is actually like. I find, also, that that sort of speak usually arises when we want to promote this idea that seminary isn't real life, parish-life is real life, and the time in the seminary is either: 1) the greatest possible life and so one ought to desire to one day be assigned back to the parish or 2) seminary is the worst possible life and it is to be suffered through until, finally, "they" have stopped hindering "you" and you can finally get on with what God really wants you to be doing.

From my ordination: lying prostrate during the Litany of the Saints
Looking back to my ordination, as well as assisting at my classmates' ordinations, my first thought is that it really wasn't very existentially special. Surprise, surprise. I know. My classmates would make some comment about how my Medieval outlook on life doesn't allow me to appreciate life, or something. Yes, intellectually, I know that Ordination is a great grace, and I am most thankful to Omnipotent God for it. Yet, I didn't get choked up, I wasn't nervous beforehand, I haven't experienced any great temptation telling me I shouldn't have been ordained, I haven't had any major struggle with fulfilling the roles I am called to fulfill. It just is; and it just fits.

Last week, I spent the week out in the southwestern part of Minnesota at a small cluster of parishes; well, after having spoken with Tyler's brothers and sisters-in-law I can't quite call them "small" since the Diocese of Rapid City has some quite a bit smaller, but the populations of those towns were approximately 2,050, 320 and 170. As I was out there, the pastor asked me, "So what's it like to be a deacon?" I didn't have much of a response. I pretty much just shrugged my shoulders and said, "It is what it is." To which he responded, "Now, see! That's what it's supposed to be. It feels natural to be a deacon, doesn't it?" I responded, "Yeah, pretty much." He continued, "See. Now that's a sure sign that you're called to be a priest." I don't know that I would quite so strongly agree and hold the same position, but it is nonetheless reassuring.

And that is what it has been like for these last two weeks and four days. Sometimes there is a bit more poignant reminder that I am a deacon, for example last night. Having just arrived at my summer assignment, we left to go to the funeral home for a wake service. As we arrived, the pastor had to go do something and so I was left on my own. I happened to meet one of the oldest daughters of the elderly mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother who had passed away. After speaking with her, I started walking through the crowd of people there making my way to the back of the room towards the poster-boards with pictures and suddenly noticed that more than the usual number of people were looking at me and following me with their eyes. Suddenly I remembered, "You're in clerics!" The same happened today as we were one worship-aid short in the sacristy and I went out to simply grab another from the ushers. Quite a few people were watching me as I walked around, and then I realized, "Ah! I'm in clerics."

This spurred the realization: Gone are the days of just walking through the church to grab that one thing I forgot. There is no simply slipping by the outer wall of the church to do x, y or z. No, people look to you. They want to greet you and be greeted by you. Silly me. I just want to go grab one more worship-aid so we have enough before we start Mass!

I could here continue my reflection and repeat a bit of what I said in this post, but ultimately, what I said about the others is the same and is true for me personally: Suddenly, I am to stand at the side of the priest at the altar. Suddenly, I am to take up the cup of salvation and raise it in and for adoration (Gasp! What? Adoration is a liturgical act? That's unheard of!). Yes, just as little as I sense any change in my brothers who have been ordained priests, so too I lack any significant sense of change within me. It's what I've been preparing for; it's what I am now doing. It's just the next step in life, the next step in carrying out God's will.

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